When is the ideal time to leave our shores and sample life somewhere over the horizon? It depends on your interests, budget and preferences – not to mention your tolerance to either extreme heat or bone-chilling cold.
This quick guide will tell you the best time of year for general travel, family holidays and sightseeing to some of the most visited regions in the world.
If you are interested in seasonal sports or special events then you will have less flexibility with dates. It’s also important to check if a country you’re visiting has any travel warnings. Visit www.smarttraveller.gov.au for travel alerts.
Travelling to western Europe in the shoulder seasons – usually April to mid-June, and September/October – has many benefits such as pleasant weather, fewer crowds and cheaper prices for accommodation and tours. In the UK temperatures are cooler so it’s worth visiting from May to August. Aim for early summer (June) when visiting Scandinavia. However, you’ll have to brave its winter to see the northern lights.
March and April are great to visit Turkey: warm, not hot, weather and wildflowers in bloom, although Gallipoli is very crowded around 25 April. Avoid July/August unless you really like heat.
As with Australia, the size of the US and Canada means variety in seasons and climates, so the best time will depend on what area you want to visit. October is the magic month, there are fewer crowds, the weather is pleasant, you can get low-season rates on accommodation, and nature can be viewed in its autumn splendour.
Avoid summer, if you can. It comes with crowds, heat, high prices and coincides with North American school holidays. If you’re heading to the east coast, then September/October is a good time to see the autumn trees. Spring or autumn are best for the mid-west to avoid the scorching summer or the freezing winter. The west coast is ideally visited between April and October.
If your plans include the Gulf of Mexico or the eastern seaboard, then avoid the hurricane season: basically mid-May to the end of November.
South America’s seasons follow Australia’s, but with a character all their own.
Peru is near the equator and has mild winters and summers. Around Machu Picchu, high in the Andes, there are distinct wet and dry seasons. Visit in April or May when there are clear skies and fewer crowds, avoiding June to August. Don’t visit in February when the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance.
Argentina is also best in April and May.
Brazil’s coastal cities, including Rio de Janeiro, are still warm in winter and relatively uncrowded. For the Amazon, go during the dry season (June to December), unless you want to see wildlife, in which case it’s the wet (January to May). If you’re travelling the length of Chile, with its wide range of climates, then choose summer (December to March); it’s the busiest time but it will give you the best access to the country, including Patagonia and the Andes. September to November is best to visit Ecuador, and it’s February/March for Colombia.
In Antarctica, summer (November to March) has the best wildlife viewing.
China is best visited in early autumn (September/early October) with reasonable temperatures and low rainfall. Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate so avoid typhoon time (May to November). Visit Malaysia and Singapore between March and early October to avoid the worst of the rain and humidity.
The cooler months (November to February) are best for Thailand, although they are the busiest, so book ahead. Japan’s famous cherry blossoms are on display from March to May, however October/late November with its glorious autumn foliage is less busy.
Middle East/North Africa
There are fewer crowds in summer but that’s because the temperatures regularly top 40 degrees. Winter is high season in most of the Middle East and North Africa for a reason: the days are still sunny although the nights are chilly.
Morocco is best in spring (April/May), although if you don’t mind really cold nights then try December/January.
Visit Egypt in October or November as the weather isn’t too hot and the tourists aren’t too ubiquitous.
If you’re going on safari in South Africa or Zimbabwe, then plan for May to September – it’s the dry season and wildlife is easier to spot. It’s also the low tourist season. Kenya’s dry season is June to October and this is the best time to see the wildebeest migration, although it can be crowded.
If you’re planning to holiday in your home country, spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) are the best times to holiday in the south.
This is the best time if you want to avoid crowds, summer heat and winter chills. If your destination is the tropical north, then you’ll want to visit between April and November – it’s still hot but also dry.
Australia’s interior can also get extremely hot so visit April to June, or October/November.